Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Secret Weapon

"Don't pussy out on me now. They don't know. They don't know shit. You're not gonna get hurt. You're fucking Baretta. They believe every fucking word because you're super cool."

Mr. Orange, from "Reservoir Dogs".

I stole these lines from him and I use them. To pump myself up when I need it. To protect myself.

It's the scene where he is about to go downstairs to the car to pull the jewelry store heist. As you remember, he is an undercover cop. He is trying to psyche himself up for what he has to do, hoping to remain safe. He's about to walk out the door, hesitates, closes the door and looks into the mirror and recites those lines.

Unfortunately he ultimately winds up dead. I ignore that detail in my preparations.

I really do this. Usually in the mirror of my car after arriving at a new job or any other situation that makes me uncomfortable. I sit up, look in the mirror and recite my lines.

Sometimes I do it at home before leaving, if the situation demands it.

When I started the new job I did it a few times until I got comfortable. One day I was walking from my car to the job reciting the lines out loud when I realized someone was walking behind me.

Don't know where he came from but I hope he enjoyed the show.

Better Get Your Shit Together, Children

Remember when I waxed eloquent about the Memorial Day weekend? What I forgot to do was to issue you a warning.

Memorial Day weekend rolls around and you come alive. Yeah, baby - summer is here and the living is easy.

In a way that is deceptive because other than those three days your life doesn't change that much. Still gotta get up and go to work, worry about paying the fucking bills, go food shopping, make dump runs; you know, same old same old.

Still, the weather is better, you don't have to shovel snow or scrape ice off your windshield, so I guess life is a little easier.

Problem is, life moves faster miles an hour when summer hits. And it doesn't help that weather can be such a ball buster.

April sucked. Right? But what the hell, April has a right to suck. April is like a non month. It shouldn't even fucking exist. It is unpredictable and is often cold and rainy.

April showers bring May flowers my ass. April showers bring May showers - and more cold.

May sucked too. Right? Lots of cold, lots of rain.

AND FUCKING JUNE SUCKED TOO. For the most part. I believe I read that the average temperature in June was 88 degrees below normal. For Christ sake, I had yesterday off, I have today off - and both mornings when I came downstairs I had to turn the heat on.

Are you fucking kidding me? On June 26 and June 27 I had to turn the heat on?

Do NOT tell Carol. Carol has a weird thought process that says you don't turn the heat on in June, July, August - even if you wake up to 23 degrees. Like yesterday and today.

I have a weird thought process that says I refuse to be cold in my own fucking house - ever.

So I am sitting there yesterday and today, with the heat turned on and a blanket on my lap as I read.

That ain't right.

Here's my point. We are staring down the barrel at the approach of the July 4th weekend. You better put the pedal to the metal, baby.

Because there is exactly one half of a second between July 4th and the Labor Day weekend. That time will fly by so fucking fast that you will feel like you did one of those Star Wars time warp jump thingys.

Better hit the ground running, baby and you better start today. Tumble kicking, screaming and laughing into the July 4th weekend. Crazy go nuts.

'Cause you gotta make hay while the sun shines. Recent history supports the theory that summer doesn't really begin until July and it tends to extend through September now. That's just the way it is.

So you better be ready.

Make your plans, dream your dreams, think big and go after it. Because if you don't, when it starts snowing late in September you will be consumed by so much regret that you'll wish you were dead.

If you don't have the money to go after the fun you want, go out and get it. A quick drug deal can often finance an entire summer's fun.

If you are like me, summer is it. There ain't nuthin' else. So you are morally obligated to squeeze as much fun and happiness into those two months plus one (September doesn't qualify as summer even though the weather hints otherwise - September is month 1 of winter, baby) as is humanly possible.

I am so lucky to be in the situation I am in right now. Plenty of time off to enjoy, plenty of time off to plan. Christ, I even like my job, which makes things so much easier. I am working on July 1 and July 3, maybe even July 2 and I don't even care. Used to be I would be suicidal having to work a holiday weekend.

Not anymore. I will do what I have to do and I will still squeeze in some summer fun.

Consider yourself warned. I am a sage. I am a prophet. Your life will improve immediately when you finally decide to follow the word of The Joe.

Let's meet on September 30 over a high end whiskey or two and reminisce about the great fun we had this summer.

I expect thrilling stories. Don't let me down.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Waldo Was Pretty Fucking Smart

"If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Just A Conversation

Spent Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with Paula and Bill.

Always a great time; we get along and we do it comfortably. The beauty of family.

Our conversations are always free flowing and wide ranging, we laugh a lot, debate a lot; no one is afraid to say anything to anyone else.

We get to the end of the night, sitting around the kitchen table, talking about life. I don't remember how we got there but at one point I said that if I died right now my epitaph would have to be "He pissed his life away".

It is a line that has been rattling around my head for years, and I believe it is appropriate.

Paula immediately and passionately went on the attack, asking "What the hell are you talking about? You have a beautiful family" and stuff like that.

This is the response I most often get when I talk epitaph and I understand where it is coming from.

I do have a beautiful family. Carol, Keith & Emily, Craig & Karen, my brother Ed - I cannot believe how lucky I am to call these people family. They are extraordinary and they bring me immense happiness.

My extended family - Paula and Bill, Cori, the Testa clan, the Sargent clan - they all mean a great deal to me and I do not take them for granted.

But when you come right down to it, you only have yourself.

I worship my sons, but the time I get to spend with them is minimal compared to the time I spend living my life. I cannot define my entire life by the limited moments I spend with them.

I love Carol deeply and cannot imagine life without her; she is the absolute definition of partner. But she despises her job and carries that unhappiness home with her every night. I, as you well know, am unhappy with myself and that truth hangs heavy.

So as much as we mean to each other, we cannot give each other perfect peace of mind.

That can only come with a satisfied sense of self.

I made the comment at Paula and Bill's that "I am too smart to be living the way I do, that with my intelligence I should have earned a lot more money in my lifetime, that our life should have been easier and our retirement secure".

The obvious irony there is that I am obviously not too smart to live this way.  The truth is in the living.

Paula then said something along the lines of "you need to accept that this is your life and stop torturing yourself."

BOOM. That comment has been rattling around my head ever since.

This has been the essential conflict of semi-retirement. I believe I need to use the extra time to change my life, to shape my life more in the image I have in my head. As a result I have not enjoyed semi-retirement as much as I should have. I see every day off as an opportunity and a challenge to me to do what I have to do to be reborn as The Real Joe Testa.

Of course I fail almost every time.

I have wondered over and over again if I am just pissing in the wind. Thinking that maybe I should just sit back and enjoy this extra time by indulging in the things that I love and letting the chips fall where they may.

Accepting that this is my life.

But reality is a bitch, baby. I know that Carol and I are only going to get older and more frail, and that we don't have enough money to live in dignity. And I will not become a burden to my sons. No fucking way.

So who the hell knows what is right?

Paula's comment twisted my guts up a little tighter. I know I am lucky to be in the position I am in, to have three or four days off a week to enjoy. And we are getting by, although it is at the expense of Carol working full time at a job that she hates, which is something else to consider.

But from a selfish perspective, maybe I should just lighten up and dig the moment. Stop torturing myself with worry and anxiety. I am getting older and time has become precious. Other people survive, why shouldn't Carol and I?

I don't know if I am capable of that shift in thinking. It kind of feels like giving up.

But it also feels like a simple key to happiness.

No small thing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

They Actually PAY Me To Do This? (Are You Fucking Kidding Me?)

Worked my first show last night.

George Thorogood and The Destroyers.

I was the point man in the box office. For a big show like that we have two people just handing out will call tickets, and one person selling last minute tickets and resolving ticketing issues.

I was the latter.

A bit intimidating but not overwhelming. Get to the joint at 5:30, do a bunch or pre-show stuff, then open up the box office at 6:30 - the show is at 7:30.

At 6:30 the lobby is already filled with people who come at the windows in a mad rush, wielding machetes and shotguns. (My recollection may be inaccurate or melodramatic - I cannot really be sure).

Pretty wild but also pretty cool - you got a bunch of happy people all revved up for the band that they love. I can identify with that quite easily.

A few issues here and there, a few mistakes on my part, but then again I have only been on the job for 3 weeks. In 3 more weeks I will own the fucking joint. 3 weeks after that they will rename the place The Joe Testa Center for The Performing Arts.

One humorous incident - a dude comes up to my window and asks about ticket availability and prices. A bit sketchy looking but I kind of dig sketchy. He finally decides he can afford a $44.50 seat in the balcony. He hands me $44 and tells me he is 50 cents short. Asks if that means he cannot buy a ticket.

I tell him no, I am not going to worry about fifty cents.

After he walks away my boss asked me what that was all about. I told him the guy was 50 cents short but I sold him a ticket anyway, told him I would kick in the 50 cents, is that all right?

Boss man said "Hell no, that is not all right" but he was laughing as he said it. Half serious, half not.

Apparently I will have to be a little tougher from now on.

Anyway, I fight off ticket buyers and try to solve problems until we close the box office at around 8:15.

Run through the closing routine, finish up and then at reward.

I walk into the lobby, buy myself a beer and then walk into the theatre where George Thorogood and The Destroyers are up on stage.

For free. I got to walk in for free.

Who the hell has a job like that? Oh, yeah - I do.

And they were rocking that hall. It is the loudest I have heard since I started working there, with the most animated, enthusiastic crowd I have seen so far.

Fucking fantastic.

I stood up back, sipping on my beer, shaking my head in disbelief at my good fortune, and rocking out with everybody else. Stuck around for an hour before I reluctantly left.

I am amazed at my situation. I dig Thorogood but would not have bought a ticket to the show because Carol forces me to set money aside for food and mortgage payments. It has been a lifelong torture for me - skipping concerts I would dig because, well, I just can't afford to go to every concert that I want to.

Now I can. I can work my gig in the box office and when we are done - I can buy myself a beer, walk into the show for free and feed my musical addiction.

I am still giddy today.

Man, sometimes in life (and not too often) a situation comes along that is just too good. Too unbelievable, too damn tasty, too amazing to pass up.

When that happens you gotta grab it by the balls and hold on for dear life.

That is my plan for this job. I am all in. I have really thrown myself into it and will continue to do so until I am King of The Box Office.

Catch myself some beautiful moments along the way.

Feels good. Feels right.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Is So Fucking Cool It Is Hard To Believe It Is Really A Thing

I was going to write this last weekend but I got sidetracked and ended up writing an obituary instead, just the other day.

I say this every year. I love long weekends. Not just for me. For humanity in general.

Driving home last Friday night I saw pickups with canoes in the back, people towing pop up trailer/tents, campers, RV's.

People bursting free; throwing off the bonds.

I don't see it as an act of desperation. I see it more as a big fuck you to the world.

Working people whose lives revolve around their hated jobs and the fucking bills and the mortgage payment and home repairs and cars that break down............................and an occasional pizza.

Officially sanctioned 3 day weekends roll around and people get happy crazy. They do stuff.

Camping, barbecuing, going out to eat, sleeping late, hosting parties, going to parties - the sense of relief is tangible. You can feel it. You can see it on peoples' places.

You can hear it as people tell you what their long weekend plans are. Smiling. Excited.

People who walk through life dead, suddenly come alive.

And why not? Jesus Christ, the only thing life should be about is having fun.

Unfortunately, most of us spend 99% of our time burrowing like gophers, heads down, teeth clenched, anxiety ruling. 1% trying to get to happy.

A 3 day weekend is a free pass. It is only one extra day but it is the world.

I feel so good about people. Happiness actually becomes a thing, you can release it, let it flow, express it unashamedly. Whatever you are doing that weekend becomes the most important thing in your life, and drudgery be damned.

As always, I have to acknowledge the people who do not get a three day weekend. A slice of our population that has become huge and keeps on growing.

Many years ago, most of the people I knew were lucky enough to get three day weekends. Now I know more people who do not get them.

People working service industry jobs, people working two jobs, people working three part-time jobs.

This is a sad commentary on our society. Employers content to exploit working people so the company does not have to pay insurance. Happy to treat their employees like human resources instead of people; companies who do not give a shit about their employees' lives - how hard they have to work to survive, how much they have to sacrifice to get a small shot at dignity.

It sucks. It really sucks.

Three day weekends are a mixed bag. But if you are lucky enough to get them....................fucking go for it.

Make them count. Ease your mind. Laugh. Dig your family, dig your friends.

The fun that you experience is what life is all about.